Florida Finalizes Draft Hemp Rules

By the end of 2019, hemp farmers in Florida might be able to submit their hemp applications. On Monday, state officials held the first of the multiple public hearings in Tampa to discuss the Final Draft Rules for the state’s hemp program.

This clarifies that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Florida is still on track for adoption and review of its rules by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Franco Ripple, the agency spokesperson. He further added that the Agricultural Commissioner, Nikki Fred’s main priority was to get the final draft out and hemp seeds in Florida at the earliest time.

Earlier this year, the Florida legislature passed legislation authorizing a hemp program while Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growth of hemp in the U.S. and this allowed states to establish programs for growing hemp, a plant that was previously banned.

In the draft rules, there is a provision for licenses to last for a period of 12 months only and that they should be non-transferable. This will lead to the shutdown of the market for selling licenses. The rule has frustrated some state officials because it will be impossible to transfer licenses once a company changes ownership.

As noted in the draft rules, there is a significant concern as hemp is classified as an invasive species that has the potential of spreading to other farms once planted. This is the reason why security measures must be in place before planting hemp.

According to the draft rules, farmers are required to submit samples of their crop for THC concentration testing before harvesting. THC is a chemical compound in marijuana that gives users the high effect when consumed, and it must be below 0.3% in hemp. The state requires several tests to be conducted to get conclusive results. If the level of concentration is above 0.3%, the rules stipulate that the entire hemp crop should be destroyed.

The draft rules further stipulate that the farmers have to issue a notification to the state before harvesting their crop and to ensure that the product is securely stored once cut. The rules also provide for the safe transportation of hemp products.

The draft rules also set specific standards on the quality of hemp seeds since farmers had previously voiced their concerns on the quality of the available hemp seeds considering the crop is relatively new. The rules state that sellers cannot sell hemp seed with a germination rate of less than 60%.

Earlier this year, Florida Cannabis Director, Holly Bell, forecast that cultivation permits application would be about 8,000 and that about 3,000 farms would start growing hemp at the beginning of 2020.

Experts believe industry players like Organigram Holdings Inc. (TSX: OGI) (NASDAQ: OGI) and Marijuana Company of America Inc. (OTCQB: MCOA) will be watching to see if the predictions come to pass once hemp cultivation gets underway in Florida next year.

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